Admin • Tuesday 14th May 2019
My recent tweets about how Christians should take bold steps influencing political policies raised a few eyebrows, so I thought to bring clarifications on the subjects of Christians and Politics.
I believe Christians should seek to influence governance according to God’s moral compass and God’s purposes for government as revealed in the Bible.
The Bible shows several examples of believers in God who influenced governments. For instance, the Jewish prophet Daniel exercised a strong influence on the government in Babylon.
Daniel said to Nebuchadnezzar, Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you:
break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity. (Dan. 4:27)
Daniel’s approach is bold and clear. It is the opposite of a modern multicultural approach that might say something like this:
O King Nebuchadnezzar, I am a Jewish prophet, but I would not presume to impose my Jewish moral standards on your Babylonian kingdom. Ask your astronomers and your soothsayers! They will guide you in your own traditions. Then follow your own heart! It would not be my place to speak to you about right and wrong. No, Daniel boldly told the king, “Break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed.”
At that time Daniel was a high official in Nebuchadnezzar’s court. He was “ruler over the whole province of Babylon” and “chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon” (Dan. 2:48). He was regularly “at the king’s court” (v. 49). Therefore it seems that Daniel had a significant advisory role to the king. This leads to a reasonable assumption that, though it is not specified in the text, Daniel’s summary statement about “sins” and “iniquities” and “showing mercy to the oppressed” (Dan. 4:27), was followed by a longer conversation in which Daniel named specific policies and actions of the king that were either good or evil in the eyes of God. This means, today’s Ministers of the gospel who are qualified can if they so chose, be involved in governance.
The counsel that Jeremiah proclaimed to the Jewish exiles in Babylon also supports the idea of believers having influence on laws and government. Jeremiah told these exiles, “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” ( Jer. 29:7). But if believers are to seek to bring good to such a pagan society, that must include seeking to bring good to its government (as Daniel did). The true “welfare” of such a city will be advanced through governmental laws and policies that are consistent with God’s teaching in the Bible, not by those that are contrary to the Bible’s teachings.
Other believers in God also had high positions of governmental influence in non-Jewish nations. Joseph was the highest official after Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and had great influence in the decisions of Pharaoh (see Gen. 41:37–45; 42:6; 45:8–9, 26).
Later, Moses boldly stood before the Pharaoh and demanded freedom for the people of Israel, saying, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Let my people go’” (Exod. 8:1). Nehemiah was “cupbearer to the king” (Neh. 1:11), a position of high responsibility before King Artaxerxes of Persia.19 Mordecai “was second in rank to King Ahasuerus” of Persia (Esth. 10:3; see also 9:4). Queen Esther also had significant influence on the decisions of Ahasuerus (see Esth. 5:1–8; 7:1–6; 8:3–13; 9:12–15, 29–32).
Another example is the apostle Paul. While Paul was in prison in Caesarea, he stood trial before the Roman governor Felix. Here is what happened:
After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you” (Acts 24:24–25).
While Luke does not give us any more details, the fact that Felix was “alarmed” and that Paul reasoned with him about “righteousness” and “the coming judgment” indicates that Paul was talking about moral standards of right and wrong and the ways in which Felix, as an official of the Roman Empire, had obligations to live up to the standards that are given by God. Paul no doubt told Felix that he would be accountable for his actions at “the coming judgment” and that this was what led Felix to be “alarmed.” When Luke tells us that Paul “reasoned” with Felix about these things, the word (Greek dialegomai) indicates a back-and-forth conversation or discussion. It is not difficult to suppose that Felix asked Paul, “What about this decision that I made? What about this policy? What about this ruling?”
It would be an artificial restriction on the meaning of the text to suppose that Paul only spoke with Felix about his “private” life and not about his actions as a Roman governor. Paul is thus another example of attempting to exercise Christian influence on government.
So as you can see from bible history (both new and old testament) we are not commanded by God to stay far from governance and just be holy in a corner while our nation suffers around us. A practical proof that we pray is the insight we get to implement in our nation for growth. So, it is time for us to show that we have been praying.
Also I believe that anyone who lives in a democracy, because in a democracy a significant portion of the ruling power of government is entrusted to the citizens generally, through the ballot box. Therefore all citizens who are old enough to vote have a responsibility before God to know what God expects of civil government and what kind of moral and legal standards he wants government to follow. But how can citizens learn what kind of government God is seeking? They can learn this only if churches teach about government and politics from the Bible.
I realize that pastors will differ in the degree of detail they wish to teach with regard to specific political issues facing a nation. But surely it is a responsibility of pastors to teach on some of these specific policies in ways that go beyond the mere statement, “You have a responsibility to vote intelligently.”
After all, who else is going to teach these Christians about exactly how the Bible applies to specific political issues? Would pastors think it right to leave their congregations with such vague guidance in other areas of life? Would we say, “You have a responsibility to bring up your children according to Christian principles,” and then never explain to them what those Christian principles are? Would we think it right to say to people in the business world, “You have a responsibility to work in the business world according to Christian principles,” and then never give them any details about what these Christian principles are? No, the responsibility of pastors is to give wise biblical teaching, explaining exactly how the teachings of the Bible apply to various specific situations in life, and that should certainly include instruction about some policy matters in government and politics.
I believe that every Christian citizen who lives in a democracy has at the very least a minimal obligation to be well informed and to vote for candidates and policies that are most consistent with biblical principles. The opportunity to help select the kind of government we will have is a stewardship that God entrusts to citizens in a democracy, a stewardship that we should not neglect or fail to appreciate.
Is it not right that all of us at least do something more than merely voting to preserve and protect this nation?
- Tobore Adakaraza